I spent nearly a decade of my life fighting my body to lose weight. Dieting was torture, as I tried to count every calorie I ate, avoid a long list of “off limit” foods, and stress about social situations involving food. Exercise was grueling and miserable as I worked for hours on end to burn off the excess calories. No matter how hard I tried, my body would always fight back with extreme hunger and cravings, physical injury, and illnesses, preventing me from achieving my hard-earned results.
Then, something changed for me. I met a series of people that I considered naturally thin: my roommate, Michelle, my coworker, Kate, and my future husband. I ended up spending a lot of time with each of these individuals and realized these people didn’t have to fight for their physiques and their bodies didn’t fight back.
At first, I attributed this purely to genetics. But the more I spent time with each of them, the more I noticed some similar patterns in their thoughts and actions. This made me wonder if this way of thinking, and this pattern of action might be keeping them fit and lean, while my actions and thoughts were keeping me from the same results. I wondered if I adopted their mindset, and incorporated their actions into my life, I could have similar results.
Here are some of the things that I observed about the naturally thin people I was surrounded by:
1. They didn't obsess over their weight or size.
While I was weighing myself every day to see if it would be a “good” day or a “bad” day, my naturally thin friends rarely thought about their weight or their size. They never once tied their happiness or worth to how they looked, or to what size of pants they wear.
2. They trusted their bodies.
While I was fighting with my body to eat six small (minuscule) meals a day, and drinking tons of water to alleviate the hunger in between, my naturally thin friends just trusted their bodies, ate when they were hungry, and stopped when they were satisfied. They trusted their internal hunger and fullness mechanisms and it worked for them without fail.
3. They didn't follow arbitrary rules of dieting.
I had a long list of “dos” and “don’ts” that I followed: no carbs in the evening, don’t eat after 7pm, eat six small meals a day, always pair a carb with a protein, never eat this, that and the other thing … It was exhausting, and I was constantly confused about what my body really needed.
My naturally thin friends disregarded all of these rules and actually had their own internal sense of what fueled them best: “too much chocolate gives me a headache.” “I feel best when I eat this for breakfast.” “I just don’t like how I feel after eating greasy, fried foods.”
4. They didn't associate food with guilt or shame.
When I was dieting, I would feel so guilty if I ever got “off track” with the plan, and that guilt usually fueled more overeating and more poor choices. While naturally thin people aren’t food saints that always eat what their bodies perfectly need, they don’t dwell on their poor choices either.
They may acknowledge that it wasn’t the best decision: “Wow, I probably didn’t need to eat that whole desert” but then, they drop it, they let it go, and trust themselves to continue making good decisions without needing to beat themselves up or feel guilty about that one poor choice.
5. They found happiness outside of food.
One significant reason I struggled with weight in the first place was because I used food as a replacement for what I really needed. When I was unhappy, I ate. When I was stressed, I ate. When I was lonely, bored, depressed, I ate. What I noticed with each of my naturally thin friends is that they never used food as a substitute for what they really needed.
Yes, food was a pleasurable and enjoyable experience, but they never used it to make themselves happy. If something wasn’t working well for them, they had the courage to address the problems head on, and create happy, meaningful lives that didn’t require food as a crutch for happiness.
By adopting these attitudes and behaviors, I saw dramatic changes in all aspects of my life. My happiness increased because I no longer relied on my weight to decide if I would be happy or not. I stopped fighting with my body and started listening to it. I lost weight seemingly effortlessly, and I can truly say that I have become a naturally thin and healthy person myself.